A lack of women in tech is a problem for the whole sector, and the numbers prove it

A lack of women in technology jobs is not just a problem for women, it’s a problem for the whole sector. That’s the notion put forward by the Tech Partnership and Founders for Schools, both of which recently published new research into diversity in the sector.

Findings from the Tech Partnership’s Women in IT scorecard reveal that just 17% of tech specialists in the UK are women, compared with 47% of the entire workforce. That’s just 17% of the ideas, creativity and leadership that the tech sector could benefit from, if it had a balanced workforce. Worse still, fewer than 1 in 10 of these women are in leadership positions.

These figures have remained static for almost a decade, but it’s a problem caused by lack of talent. A recent report compiled by Founders for Schools reveals that, of the 7% of tech businesses that are female-led, 58% of grew in revenue by more than 20% per year and 35% by more than 50%.

Looking further down the talent pipeline, the Tech Partnership reported that female school pupils taking IT-related A-levels in 2014 actually performed better than boys, despite making up only 27% of the class. It’s a no-win situation:  girls miss out on rewarding careers in a growing industry, and the market misses out on the talent and insight of half its potential workforce.

Set these findings against the backdrop of the UK’s growing tech skills gap and it’s clear the sector has an even bigger problem. It’s a long-cited complaint from tech employers that tech professional and management roles are hard to fill. It’s predicted that the tech industry will need over 171,000 new tech professionals every year to flourish; a demand that currently far outweighs supply. Could unlocking the tech potential of half the UK’s population fix this?

Increasing the number of women working in tech to fill the skills shortage could generate an extra £2.6 billion for the UK economy each year, according to a report commissioned by internet company Nominet, and it states that improved communication skills, improved morale and new ideas were the benefits most likely to come from hiring more female staff members.

There’s no skirting around it. A more diverse tech industry will bring greater economic prospects to the sector. But what’s the answer? ‘There’s no quick fix,’ says the Tech Partnership’s Karen Price ‘If we can’t provide one single, simple answer, we can as a sector provide a thousand smaller ones.’

And that’s just what the network of employers who form the Tech Partnership have set out to do. From TechFuture Girls, an after school club that inspires girls about tech skills and careers, to the TechFuture Women’s Network, which offers a ways for female professionals to mentor students about education and career paths, it’s clear the sector recognises the economic benefits that tapping into the skills and leadership potential that the other half of the population can bring.